After a successful first volume of Comedy Central’s Presents show, a follow up was inevitable. While some may prefer a season set element, the sets manage to pack in eight different comedians from all the different eras of the show, so in the end we get a much better overview of the series from the generations of comedians that followed one another, rather than just simply a season full of comedians who we may or may not have even heard of anymore. But that’s just an explanation of way the sets are released—just what is Presents and why is it worth owning?
Comedy Central Presents started in 1998 as a venue for up and coming comics (as well as a few who have been around for awhile) to show off their stand-up routines in a half hour block of programming and is something anyone who has surfed by the channel in the past ten years will have undoubtedly stumbled upon. It’s hard to pass up a free stand-up show and you’re pretty much guaranteed to laugh your head off at one of these specials and within no time you find yourself sitting in on the remainder of the standup special. Whether it’s someone you’ve heard of like Lewis Black, Patton Oswalt or Frank Caliendo, or even some lesser knowns such as Daniel Tosh or Mike Birbiglia, Comedy Central Presents is always a great source for laughter.
With the first volume of Comedy Central Presents, we got the “big” names. Lewis Black, Dane Cook, Jim Gaffigan, Demetri Martin and Jeff Dunham were just a few of the comedians who adorned the cover of the last release and while this release still has some big name talent, a lot of them will likely leave you scratching your head. Before this set I hadn’t heard of Birbiglia, Lynch or Tosh, but they turned out to be some of my favorite acts on the set. That’s another thing that’s so wonderful about this show—you get introduced to new comedians who you would otherwise just scoff at since you hadn’t heard of them before. Lynch especially surprised me, with Tosh closing out the disc on a high note.
The first sketch on the set is Dave Attell (21:30) from 1999. Yes…1999. They really dug deep for this one and it unfortunately shows. With jokes referencing Spice Girls and Yanni, Attell’s comedy act definitely didn’t age well. I’d hoped it was a newer stand-up special, as I hadn’t seen him in anything lately and saw that he had a 2006 special but…alas. I guess they’re saving that one for a later release. In any case, it’s a bit of a weak opener for the set and one easily forgettable.
Things pick up with Mike Birbiglia (20:27) with a special from 2004. He’s quite the entertaining comic and reminds me a bit of Jim Gaffigan in how he tells his jokes (not a bad thing). He does tend to laugh a lot at himself, which is always awkward for me to watch, as I feel like he shouldn’t be laughing before I am, which the case is sometimes. Still, he has solid material to check out. Next is Frank Caliendo (20:27) with a 2004 special that I swear I’ve heard somewhere before, but with pieces of dialogue and material that I hadn’t heard previously, so I must have just heard him perform this same show somewhere else. His impressions are a riot to watch, as usual, and his Chris Farley as Batman routine is just one of the funniest things you could possibly witness.
Next up is Zach Galifianakis (21:24) with a 2001 sketch that is hilarious in more ways than one. His simple opening is eventually surpassed by his piano twiddling throughout, with deadpan and dry jokes that he rarely breaks from. At one point he remarks to a woman in the audience, who is laughing hysterically at him; I always love it when comics break from their routines to thrown in little bits like that, as it shows that they’re able to think on their feet and don’t rely just on stuff they’ve memorized. Aside from that, however, Galifianakis is hilarious, so much so I willingly typed his name a second time just to say that. It was truly worth it to give that man, Galifianakis, more praise. Ok I may have copied and pasted it that time, but the thought behind it is still there.
Stephen Lynch (21:04) presents the most recent sketch here from 2008 and seems like he should be a part of Jack Black’s Tenacious D band. The music he plays is absolutely hilarious and while it’s a bit salty, it’s really the highlight of the disc. I didn’t know what to expect going into it, but, man…absolutely worth it all the way through. It seemed unlikely, but Patton Oswalt (20:28) followed him with a rather stinker of a special from 1999, which didn’t have me laughing until the very end. I can never tell if I find him funny or annoying—it’s such an uneven balance with his comedy routines.
And then we have Nick Swardson (21:04) with a special from 2006. I’ve seen him in Reno 911! previously but never as a straight-up comic and I have to say, he really delivers. I loved his entire routine, especially the throwbacks to the childhood picture he had up throughout the special. Daniel Tosh (20:26) closes up the set with his 2003 special and does a fine job as well. He seemed a bit off-kilter and uncomfortable at first, but it was well worth watching as he really had you laughing by the end of it.
Those who read my reviews know I generally don’t give blow-by-blow reviews of the individual “episodes” of shows like that, but seeing as that’s all there was on this disc, it was a bit difficult to review anything but those. The disc itself arrives in a standard amaray case with inserts for other Comedy Central releases and…well, that’s it. Menu is motionless with only some Comedy Central Quickies and DVD Previews to act as extras. Video for the stand-ups are an interlaced 4×3 encode which look fine for their age, with the newest recordings obviously looking cleaner (the Attel and Oswalt specials looked noticeably unclear). Audio came in the 2.0 variety without any subtitles or even closed captioning (the disc states there is, but turning it on does nothing).
Overall this is a solid release and a welcome addition to any comedy lover’s collection. Caliendo, Galifianakis (I typed it again!) and Swardson’s sketches especially have a level of rewatchability that the others don’t, but it’s Lynch’s who is the easiest to go back to. The man could release an album of songs that would get nonstop play from me for a month, easy (after checking, he apparently has three albums—guess I know where my next round of money is headed)—they’re so much fun to listen to and none of them sound the same. Highly Recommended.
The Best of Comedy Central Presents Uncensored II arrives on DVD on August 26th.